Mine ban treaty facing its acid test

It is unlikely that the majority of the 20 countries supposed to clear all their mined areas by 2009 as signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty will make the cut, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said in a statement on 4 April.

Since 1999, 156 countries have signed the treaty and "all states with antipersonnel mines on their territory - roughly one third of the total - are obliged to destroy them as soon as possible but not later than 10 years after becoming party to the treaty," the ICBL said.

The treaty has built in provisions for extensions beyond the deadlines, but the extensions would not "just be rubber stamped", said Tamar Gabelnick, the treaty implementation coordinator for the ICBL. The reasons for the failure of member states to meet their obligations would be interrogated on a case by case basis, which would make 2008 a test year for the treaty. 

There remains a great deal of goodwill surrounding the treaty, Gabelnick told IRIN, but "governments need to show that they are taking the Mine Ban Treaty's clearance obligations seriously ... the credibility of the treaty's mine clearance obligation will depend in large part on how extension requests are dealt with this year".

Among the treaty's member states that were expected to miss the 2009 deadline are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Denmark, Ecuador, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom (Falklands), Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

''Governments need to show that they are taking the Mine Ban Treaty's clearance obligations seriously''

Gabelnick said there was a range of reasons why member countries were expected to fail in their obligations, from being "overwhelmed by such a large amount of contaminated areas," through to delays in starting mine clearance programmes, to a lack of donor funding.

Mozambique's demining programme was well funded and became a victim of its own success as international operations pulled out as much of the critical work had been accomplished and that resulted in a dip in funding, she said.

Noel Stott, a senior researcher at the South African think-tank the Institute for Security Studies, said "the ten year deadline was quite idealistic" for countries that were heavily mined, but then a country like Zimbabwe, which is not classed as a heavily mined state, had not received much donor funding because of the prevailing political situation.

2008 is also a critical year for destruction of stockpiles and three countries with 1 March 2008 deadlines - Belarus, Greece and Turkey - failed to meet their obligations and were now in violation of the treaty and have no recourse to apply for extensions.

However, according to the ICBL, both Burundi and Sudan have destroyed their land mine stockpiles and met their 1 April 2008 deadline, while the sub-Saharan countries of Malawi and Djibouti are on track to meet their targets.

Since 1999, member states have stopped trading in mines; 41.8 million antipersonnel mines have been destroyed and 83 member states have erradicated their stockpiles. On 4 April is the UN International Day for Landmine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

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